I don’t know who invented high heels, but all women owe him a lot – Marilyn Monroe
I miss my Metro days – when I used to travel to and fro office by the tube. Oh! How I loved to get lost in the crowd, stare into new faces, overhear funny , interesting conversations and make up stories in my mind. Strangers always intrigue me. Where are they from and where are they off to? What is going on in their lives? What are their hidden secrets? What lies beneath that expressionless face? You may call me naturally inquisitive in a harmless kind of way. But this curiosity , these innocuous questions swirling in my mind, this inner urge to know about people often give birth to tales which I am eager to tell. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not a people-centric person but I like to be one amongst them, like a quiet, almost invisible, spectator, watchful, thoughtful yet considerate and concerned.
Enough about myself. Let’s talk about her. I don’t know her name and we have never exchanged pleasantries. I never do. I am not the extrovert kind. But there was something about her which drew my attention each time I saw her. Clad in cotton sarees (and silk, of course, during winters), short in built, fragile boned, with a long, waist length plait swaying down her back, she presented a matronly picture. In her mid forties or more but quite agile on her feet, she preferred to stand inside the compartment though it was at times difficult to do so amongst the jostling bodies.
She never smiled or talked much with the co-passengers, which is kind of pity, because I would have loved to here her voice. You know how much one can make out about a person just by listening to his/her voice…. Now, where was I?
She looked like a skittish mice on the look out for a safe anchor. Yes! She did remind me of them. Neither did she look like one of those happily married kinds. In contrast to her usual stance, once or twice I did see her talking to somebody known to her…snatches of conversation indicating an extended family, nieces and nephews…and did she smile ? She did, but the glint did not lit up her face or reach up to her eyes. It was a mere formality & no more. Yet, my eyes sought her in the crowd and I could have, in the long run, discarded her thoughts as unnecessary or remembered her with a faded smile as the ‘Ms. Mouse in the Metro’ …but so it was not to be.
It was a lukewarm evening when we happened to de-board the Metro at the same station. (Aah! Yes, she used to get down at my stop!!) and as she descended the steps to the concourse, my eyes travelled down to her feet – small, dainty feet encased in high heels Oh yes! High heels smartly tapping on the marbled floor as she made her way through the throng of commuters. Sturdy pair of shoes those were – neither wedge nor stilettoes – slightly old fashioned ones yet it bestowed an additional dimension to her otherwise lackluster personality. I used to often wonder how smoothly would she maneuver through the crowd while boarding or de-boarding the train attributing her efficiency to the mouse-like skittishness in her. But now, after glancing upon her heels, I had an entirely different opinion about her. She was no more the ‘Mouse in the Metro’. Behind that well-scrubbed face and the one-amongst-the-crowd persona, lay in hiding a woman of smarter means. A pair of heels gave her an altogether different air… layers to a common face, an ulterior façade to her unassuming bearing, a super-imposed plainfacedness which now seemed like a cleverly designed deception to divert attention off her innermost cravings…. secret ambitions, perhaps, of being desirable and presentable to a society which overtly fondled pre-conceived notions of what was attractive and tempting in the womankind. Strange! As these thoughts stirred me I realized how she, with her tap-dancing platform heels, wordlessly made a point perfunctorily countering what I had, in my heart of heart, intended her image to be! Once again, I was compelled to acknowledge that I was also very much a part of the system that I was often disgusted with and vociferously condemned as prejudiced and judgmental.
Due to my disconnection with the Metro, I have not met her since, although, I presume, she is an inhabitant of the same locality as I am, yet those pair of sturdy heels clicking on the smooth, shiny floor still play a staccato beat in my mind….quite often…
Well, there are many such insignificant incidents, while journeying by the Metro, that have made permanent abode in my memory. If you ask me why I shall not be able to give a suitable or logical reply. Why these inconsequential anecdotes are so impressionable and memorable that I am dedicating a whole series of posts on them? But the fact remains that they are and here I am chronicling them….and that’s that…
….And then there was this elderly Sardarjee who snored happily as the air-conditioned bogey chomped the tracks with a soothing symphony that complemented well with the sleepyheads slumped over cozily therein on the shoulders of the co-commuters seated adjacent. The Sardarjee with his huge head and huger turban looked as though would roll off the berth anytime the tube took a curve but he never did which provoked generous smiles on the lips of those who could not enjoy the ride as much as the unknown patriarch did in a haze punctuated with rhythmic scores, nay, snores!!!
To be continued…/-